Apr 30, 2011

House. Call.



Dollhouse picture in my hall. I used to have one almost exactly like it from my parents when I was eleven. It's still in my attic. Retro rotary phone below it. Got at a yard sale years ago. But it rings so incredibly loud that I have to leave it unhooked.


Kathleen called me near the end of her New York trip last week. Or was it week before last?

I sat on my front porch swing while she told me about running around Brooklyn and Manhattan. About going to brunches and bars. About Donny and Jeremy having one too many and then going to stalk Jason Schwarzman during a filming of his show that happened to be going down in the lobby of their building.

The evening she was calling me was Friday. They were just going to stay in. They walked down to the Target across the street and bought a jigsaw puzzle, per Donny's request. Of all their antics and city-seeing, I told her I wished that I was there that night.

We always do jigsaw puzzles together. Sometimes even two...
... or three in a row.

Apr 27, 2011

My Little Apprentices


So I saw this speaker at our local TEDx conference, Jeff Sandefer, give a great talk about education revolution and how our kids are not widgets and so on. One thing he said that really stuck with me, was that before the Industrial Revolution, where everything was assembly-lined, including our schools, that parents used to "apprentice" their kids in their own trade.

I thought "you know, I can draw, Chris can draw," I am going to teach Charlie our "trade." On a side note, I've also been trying to teach Charlie to "use his powers for good and not evil." (No, not because of this devil drawing.)

So a couple weeks ago I really started working with Charlie. Showing him how I "broke through" to the next level of drawing when I was his age. And, get this, it really worked! His pictures are looking sooo good. I picked him up the other day from after care, saw an amazing Finn drawing stuffed in his backpack (Adventure Time With Finn & Jake anyone?) that he had done from memory and was like "that's awesome!" Then this too-cool-for-school eight year old girl with crimped hair and about a billion arm wrap bracelet thingies who was standing there, gravely said "he's a true artist." Yes. Affirmation of your peers. I lived for that kind of stuff back then ("back then," heh... who am I fooling?)

But last week this apprenticeship took a commercial turn, let's say. Ironic since my actual trade is advertising agency creative director. We were all hanging around on the back steps and Charlie found a stick in the backyard.

Inspired Charlie: "You know what I'm going to do with this stick?"
Me: "What?"
Inspired Charlie: "I'm going to make a flag..."
Me: "Okay..."
Inspired Charlie: "A flag for Sprite!"
Me: "...."

And that's what he did. He is obsessed with Sprite. To him it's like it's the nectar of the gods. It's the only soda he ever gets to drink, and he's only allowed to have a cup when he's not using his powers for evil. Then he always takes this huge swig and swishes it around in his cheeks before he swallows. It's the American Dental Association Approved technique.

So he deadly seriously draws this flag on white paper. (With Sharpie, no wimpy pencil lines underneath... grasshopper is learning quickly). He has me help him tape it to a stick, and then, well...



...flies his freak flag.


But here comes Sam. He must have the flag.


And he's pissed.


So he gets the flag. We may have to apprentice Sam in hostile takeovers some day.


Then everyone gets snarly.


Then Mommy saves the day.

Sam doesn't fly anyone's freak flag but his own.

Apr 23, 2011

Sunday Dresses & Studio Portrait Smiles


This is why Kathleen and I never smile with our teeth anymore. We're trying to come back from it, though. It's only taken twenty years.



This is also back when we used to have Sunday dresses, Sunday suits. We're a family lapsed. Case in point: a phone call I got from my mom two Saturdays ago.

Mom: "Don't forget the boys Easter baskets when you come down this morning."
Me: "Mom! It's not Easter!"
Mom: "Well, I know that it's not until tomorrow..."
Me: "No, like it's not Easter. At all. Not for like two weeks!"
Mom: "Oh. I have to go unhide all the eggs in the yard. Click."

We're about to drive down to my parent's this morning. It really is Easter this time. We won't be wearing ribbons, or ruffled collars, or checkered suits. It's raining, so the egg hunt in the backyard might be a little muddy. We like to take turns rehiding the eggs until they're a cracked mess. Kathleen, it's your turn! Charlie, it's your turn! Mom (that's me now) it's your turn!

And we'll be smiling. Teeth and all.

Apr 17, 2011

A Fair To Remember.

Oh, man, I could write these fair pun headlines all day. Just call me Carrie Of Clan Bradshaw. So as I wait for the pilot episode Game Of Thrones to kick off on HBO tonight (winter is coming... and I am a dork... and you are too if you know that reference) it only seems appropriate that I finally share our Thomas family trip to Medieval Fair from a couple weekends ago.



Sisters of The Royal Guard.


You shall not pass... ya'll.


I told you about those teen fairy wing girls. These were my favorites.


These bagpipe dudes are our Mom's favorite Med Fair performers. They get lots of teen fairy action I fear. Kathleen is showing me how to properly knee-clap as they play the soundtrack from The Last of The Mohicans, which is a bagpipe crowdpleaser. Especially when the crowd is filled with lots of the ladyfolk who then superimpose images of Daniel Day Lewis running through the woods in leather in their mind with these guys frollicking on the stage in kilts.


My dad, my husband and my youngest babe. The guys aren't really as much into this scene and have found alternate entertainment. This is as close as Chris gets to medieval garb. "Christopher Of The Hood"... more like "Chris Of The Easily Sunburned."


Meanwhile my mom thinks Charlie's "into it." But I think he might be checking out...


... the wench cleavage. I guess there's something for the guys after all.


Apparently cell phones go great with cleavage. All the wenches carry them.




Okay, but check out this bear. This was something we had not seen at the fair in years past, and it was so cool!



We all had to get bear hugs.

Then we started hitting the tents for some shopping. Dad especially needs a little impulse purchasing to lighten his mood when he gets cranky from waiting in line for turkey legs and roasted corn. So medieval impulse purchase number one...



A didgerridoo. Which only Charlie could get to properly play. He has this thing with tribal instruments in general.

But that was not nearly impulsive enough. So purchase number two...


Wait for it... wait for it...


"The Dragon Of Darkness."


Or, at least that's what this guy told us it was named. By the way, our dad challenged us to find one other person at the fair in one-piece coveralls (his signature look), but in that entire freakfest, our dad still won. And he wasn't even in costume.


Signing of Ye Olde Royal Credit Card Receipt.


Of course, then we had to carry it back to the car. Correction, Jeremy had to carry it back to the car...



... with a proper courtly procession. Mom, Charlie, Me, Chris, Sam (in the stroller), Jeremy, Kathleen and Dad in the rear, yelling out – no, really – literally yelling out to the hundreds of passersby:

"Make Way for The Dragon Of Darkness!"
"Hail The Dragon Of Darkness!"
"Bow Down To The Dragon Of Darkness!"

(My dad's coveralls are kind of cute from the back.) Then we finally got to the parking lot and stuffed it in the back of Kathleen's Scion. That dang dragon is now sitting in the backyard next to my parents' bird bath (because, you know birds just love black freaky dragons watching them bathe.)

But then the sales guy, you know that long grey-haired peasant shirt wearing fellow (who is apparently from Minnesota) called my parents this week to tell them that the dragon probably shouldn't stay outside after consulting with the artist (go figure, that ceramic dragon can't withstand 50mph winds and Oklahoma hail... huh). So now my dad has the dragon perched behind his armchair. It cried dragon tears with him the other day when he found out All My Children was cancelled.

Apr 12, 2011

Running Like A Mother


So... I've sort of been "running." Like, for almost a year. It's been kind of a shameful secret (except to my neighbors who get to see me run by their houses every other day in giant mint green Forever 21 sunglasses being held together by safety pins and a purple sweatband, the tinny echo of Kanye and Beastie Boys and Fergie barely seeping out of my iPod earbuds as I have it cranked to full volume).

It's a guilty kind of admission, because I've always been an "indoor girl." The last time I ran anywhere was some fun run I convinced my dad to take me to at 5am in the morning with my then-best-friend, Patty, above.

Kathleen told me I pretty much did Couch to 5k without knowing it, since 3 miles without walking is now my standard and before I could only run half a block. Times I do take a walk break are a.) if I start crying during a sad song or even just a really cool song (it happens), b.) if I start thinking too hard about an ad campaign I'm working on, c.) if my elderly barely-four-foot-tall neighbor Dorothy literally throws herself in my path to gossip about our "hood," or d.) I have to blow my nose a lot (not from crying, like, from allergies.... or, er, okay crying. I tell Dorothy my face is sweating. On my cheeks. In a very specific track under my eyes. She's too short to tell the difference anyway.)

The deal was sealed back when I was only at about 2 miles running, followed by 1 mile walking, when I read the best book, Run Like A Mother, (isn't that a clever title?) on my Kindle during a plane trip a few months ago and I could not put it down. Not even when the captain told me to turn off all electronic personal devices. That pushed me over the edge to "just do it."

So if a weeping, indoorsy, trendy broke sunglasses wearing, Fergilicious mom doesn't make for one bad-ass Nike ad, I don't know what does.

Apr 8, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect


Tara Nicole Thomas practices the piano. In the Thomas family multi-purpose piano room of course. She knows, as every oldest child does, that "idle hands are the devils playground (or-something-or-another)," "the early bird gets the worm," "haste makes waste," and of course... "practice makes perfect."

Now here, performing Fur Elise at the Hazel Owen's Elementary talent show. Fifth grade. I followed it up with an encore of Rock Me Amadeus. Everyone went nuts, 1.) because Falco was a big deal, and 2.) a McDonalds commercial with a little girl playing Fur Elise on the piano was super popular then, too. Tara Nicole Thomas also knows how to pander to the crowd.

Notice, top picture... with sheet music. Bottom picture... no sheet music. See, when it comes to the actual performance, uh, you're supposed to memorize it. I was a memorization machine.

Because I practiced.


Fast forward to the piano recital debut of Kathleen May Thomas.

Let's see. As the youngest child her childhood mottos were, "carpe diem," "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy," and, oh probably something like "turtle power!" (courtesy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

Now, Kathleen is also a crowd pleaser (and a self-pleaser) so while I was choosing Canon In D and Hungarian Dance No. 5 for my recital numbers, she chose... Lean On Me.

Now, imagine the Lean On Me tune in your head:
Some. Times. In. Our. Lives. (five notes going up)
We. All. Have. Pain. (same notes going down)
We. All. Have. Sorrow. (now back up)
Now, just repeat.

Easy enough. Kathleen would groove those five notes for about five minutes after school. Then she'd run outside to rollerblade down our suburban sidewalks, or practice five equally non-challenging notes on her electric guitar over with the neighbor boy she was in love with.

Meanwhile I tsk, tsk, tsked her. "Kathleen! You have to practice. Even if you think you know your (lame) song, if you can't play it forwards and backwards in your sleep you will get super-nervous once you are up in front of everybody and you will completely forget it. You have to know it like a zombie. Like a robot. Like it's Memorex (another eighties ad slogan)!"

Okay, so maybe I sucked all the fun out of it. But I was just trying to prepare her for the real world.

So in this story the real world was recital day. Kathleen got up there at that grand piano, and she plunked out those first five notes notes. And then she stopped. And then she started again... plunk.. plunk,plunk,plunk, plunk. "Some. Times. In. Our. Lives..." and stopped again. And started again.

Ug. I just dropped my head in my hands in the third row with my family. Not very keeping in the Lean On Me Spirit, I know. Kathleen eventually just got up, looked embarrassedly at her piano teacher (pictured above) and walked off.

Mom took this picture of her and her teacher together afterwards. Mom's hand was mercifully shaky, or you would totally see that Kathleen was all lump-in-her-throat sad. Everyone was really nice to Kathleen. Even me. But I never let her forget it either.

So earlier this week all-grown-up Kathleen emailed me to tell me that her first public speaking gig was a huge hit. That she had fancy slides. That she made people laugh. That they asked tons of questions at the end, and she's even booked for another one coming up soon.

But mostly, she wanted to let me know that she practiced, practiced, practiced ahead of time.

You're welcome, Kathleen. You're welcome.

Okay, so not to paint Kathleen as a slacker. Obviously there are many things she is very disciplined about. Hello? Did you know her and Jeremy are in like their ninth week of P90X!? And have you seen how this girl eats?! Hard core.